The Dark Friend

When death comes into your life at 13 years old, do you allow the dark friend to overtake you and lead you down the dark path?

This essay originally appeared in Issue 12 of Holl & Lane Magazine — a magazine dedicated to sharing truthful, heartfelt storytelling from everyday women. Pick up the full issue in our shop.

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It happened when I was 13.

I was on a double-decker bus, coming home from a bar mitzvah party. We were being typical 13-year-olds, goofing around on the ride back from the party.

The party was a lot of fun. There was some dancing. Mostly gossiping. Definitely eating. As the party was coming to a close, the weather had significantly improved. It went from a cool May day, to a warm, almost summer-like feel.

The bus driver thought the bus was too stuffy, so he opened the two top hatches on the upper-level of the bus before we departed. Seeing as we were 13-yearolds, some of the people on the bus decided to stick their heads out of the hatch.

I was sitting in the back with the boys and another girlfriend. Most of the girls at the party were sitting in the front. So the boys were yelling to the girls across the outside of the moving bus.

There was talking and laughing and everyone having a good time.

But then it happened. I witnessed death.

Within a matter of seconds, my friend fell into the bus. He hit his head on a bridge.

From that moment on, I knew my life would forever change. I was no longer the innocent, ignorant child. I had witnessed death.

I felt guilty. Guilty that I got to live and he had to die. Guilty that I could breathe and he could not. Guilty that I could eat and he was not able to.

A black cloud grew over me. I became broken. And in crept a dark soul through those broken pieces. He wrapped me up and made me feel whole.

That dark soul encouraged me to trust him as I walked down a dark, winding path. That path was covered with uncertainty. But with my new friend, I had the confidence to continue to walk. I walked further and further on that somber path. It grew thicker and felt heavier and heavier the longer I walked.

Until one day when I crumbled. My friends discovered my secret friend and told me he was no good to me.

I went to therapy to deal with my depression. That dark path with that dark friend. He fought to stay with me. He still does.

He wanted to join me after breakups with boyfriends. During low points in my life. During deaths that have been all too frequent in my life.

Every time he showed up, I would humor him. Let him chat. But I would never let him in. He grew used to my flirtatious games. Playing with fire. Looking but not touching. Keeping him close but not letting him in. He offered comfort after my son was born, but I did not take it. I thought about it, but I didn’t need him to come around. He must have seen my weakness… sleep deprivation.

He showed up after my daughter was born. His presence felt familiar when I was struggling. I did toy with the idea of inviting him back into my life. I needed something. I needed him.

But it didn’t feel the same. He was more forceful. He was more determined to take over those broken pieces that will never heal. Death will always leave you a little broken as you lose a piece of yourself in that loved one.

I recognized some of his tactics. I knew what games he was playing. So he tried harder to get in. Maybe that is why he was so forceful. Maybe that is why he wanted me to join him down that dark and somber path.

I was on the edge. Standing there. With him. But I didn’t grab his hand. I turned around and walked away. I left him. Again. He will always offer me comfort. As a wife, mom, entrepreneur.

He will always be there, waiting for the right time to come around. I get lonely, and he sees an invitation. I get down on myself, and he comes by to say hello. He knows my weaknesses, so he will always be there. Waiting in the shadows. Watching to make sure that if I need a friend, he can be that friend.

But it is up to me to decide whether or not to grab his hand and walk down that dark path with him again. For if I go, I may not ever come out again.

Words by Jessica Litman

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